As more and more people incorporate smart home devices into their lives, the question of whether or not these devices are secure becomes more important.
Unfortunately, the answer is that most smart home devices are not very secure at all.
They may make your home vulnerable to intruders.
Smart home devices are not secure because they often use outdated technology, are not well-protected against hackers, and the companies that make them do not prioritize security. Outdated technology is the main culprit that makes it easy for attackers to access these devices.
In the rest of this article, I’ll elaborate on the different vulnerabilities that expose smart home devices to security threats.
I’ll also discuss what you can do to make your smart home devices more secure.
Smart home devices’ security vulnerabilities
Smart home devices are not secure as they are expected to be.
They are vulnerable to the following security threats:
#1: Man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack
According to the Computer Security Resource Center, a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack occurs when a perpetrator inserts himself between two communication victims.
The attacker then alters or relays the communication between the two victims without either being aware of it.
This attack is possible with smart home devices as they operate based on the internet of things (IoT) and often communicate using unencrypted channels such as WiFi.
An attacker can gain control of the device by intercepting the communication between a smart device and its controller.
For instance, an attacker can intercept data from temperature sensors and use it to determine when a home is unoccupied. They can then break into the house while nobody is there.
Other situations related to MITM attacks on smart home devices are:
Buffer overflow attack
The attacker sends more data than the system can handle, leading to the crashing of the system or the execution of malicious code.
Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
The attacker tricks a user into clicking on a malicious link that then executes code on the user’s device.
In the context of smart home devices, you can be tricked into clicking a link that will then open the gate, giving the attackers access to your house.
#2: Malware attack
Smart home devices, like other IoTs, are vulnerable to malware attacks.
Malware is malicious software designed to damage or disable computers and other devices.
It can infect a smart home device as it would infect a computer by tricking the user into downloading and installing it.
According to Statista, 5.4 billion malware are reported yearly across the world.
These malware target different devices, systems, and networks.
Smart home devices are not spared as they are also connected to the internet.
Once the malware is on the device, it can then be used to carry out different attacks, such as:
Denial-of-service (DoS) attack
The attacker overloads the system with requests, leading to a denial of service for legitimate users.
As a homeowner, DoS can deny you control of your smart home devices, making them useless.
The attacker can access sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and home addresses.
They can then use this information for identity theft or fraud.
Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack
The attacker infects multiple devices with malware and uses them to carry out a DoS attack.
This attack is more difficult to defend as the attacker can employ hundreds or even thousands of devices to carry out the attack.
How to secure your smart home devices
Now that you know the different ways smart home devices can be compromised, you’re probably wondering what you can do to protect your devices. Here are some tips:
#1: Install security updates
Like computer software, smart home devices are updated periodically.
These updates usually include security patches that address vulnerabilities in the device’s software.
Installing these updates as soon as they are available is essential to keep your devices secure.
In most cases, you’ll know the availability of an update through an alert on the device’s app.
For example, the Wyze app will notify you when there’s a new update for your Wyze Cam.
You can also set your devices to install updates automatically, so you don’t have to worry about it.
#2: Use strong passwords
It’s advisable to use strong passwords when setting up your smart home devices.
A strong password is at least eight characters long and includes a mix of uppercase and lowercase.
You should avoid using the same password for different devices. This ensures that if an attacker accesses one password, the rest of the devices will not be affected.
The following are the characteristics of a strong password, according to Harvard University:
- At least one English lowercase letter (a-z).
- At least one English uppercase letter (A-Z).
- Contains a symbol (!, *, ^, %, or #) and or a number (0-9).
- Contains ten or more characters to make guessing more difficult.
#3: Use encrypted WiFi
Unencrypted WiFi networks are easy to hack.
Using an encrypted WiFi network makes it more difficult for attackers to access your devices.
To encrypt your WiFi network, you need a router that supports WiFi Protected Access (WPA) or Wireless Encryption Protocol (WEP).
WPA is the more secure option as it uses a stronger Advanced Encryption Standard (AES).
You can also use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) to add an extra layer of security to your smart home devices.
A VPN encrypts the data sent and received by your devices, making it more difficult for attackers to intercept and read the data.
#4: Invest in security monitoring and analysis
A security monitoring and analysis system capture data on the overall state of your smart home devices and network.
This data is then analyzed to identify any security threats.
There are many commercial and open-source security monitoring and analysis tools available.
Some of the more popular ones include Splunk, Nagios, and LogRhythm.
Investing in a security monitoring and analysis system is a proactive way to identify and address security threats to your smart home devices.
#5: Enable multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) secures your smart home devices by adding a step to the login process.
In addition to your password, you’ll also need to enter a code sent to your phone.
This makes it more difficult for attackers to gain access to your devices as they would need to have both your password and access to your phone.
By any means the attackers manage to get your password, the MFA will save you by not allowing them to log in.
Instead, they will need a login code from you.
Smart home devices are becoming more and more popular.
However, they are also becoming a target for attackers.
Therefore, it’s your responsibility to identify vulnerabilities in your smart home devices and take the necessary actions to address them.
This is the best way to enhance the security of your smart home devices.